I have a question about the theme to Dances with Wolves (1990)


Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
I liked the movie, but one thing that may have prevented it from being perfect, and caused some concern for me was, basically the main character talks about how the Native Americans are not the savages they have been made out to be, by the white man.

However, in the movie we see a tribe of Natives (the Pawnee if I remember correctly), and they murder a man in cold blood, and scalp him, while he is still alive.

So that sequence feels completely out of place with the movie, when the theme is, is that Native Americans are not savages. Or maybe it's the Sioux that aren't but the main character said it was Natives as a whole, and not just the Sioux who aren't savage.

But what do you think, maybe I'm overthinking it?

Sounds like a simple misunderstanding of the word "savage" tbh.

Today the term "savage" means harsh. Like, if you get in a fight, and you knock the guy out cold, and still decide to put the boot in anyway even though he's unconscious, it is called "savage".

Native Americans, were called "savages" by the Whites... and back then it was a term used to mean "uncultured", or "animal-like".
In today's terminology it's a bit like calling them "beasts". Brutal creatures that run on instinct, killing randomly and at will without any remorse and who treat their own like dirt, with a pack-mentality like a pack of stray dogs.

The scalping of the guy and the various attacks... are there to show the culture of the people.
When in a fight, they were tough, brutal warriors and would fight to the death. It's either you or them... and they had their "ways" and their own traditions, one of which was taking the scalp of a fallen enemy.
The movie simply shows this culture rather than trying to portray a contradicting message.

Sure there were some tribes who were more war-like than others... but, that's the same within any culture/people.

I think the point of the movie was to show both sides. It was showing that the "white man" had reasons for their perception of the natives as savages, but that the natives were normal people too. They had a culture that was not excessively savage even though their warriors were brutal at times. It was trying to look at the whole picture to overcome the stigma.

Movie Forums Squirrel Jumper
Okay thanks. But if shooting a helpless man and then scalping him after, while he is still alive, and HELPLESS is not considered savage back then, then what was savage?